How to Sort Your Closet Like a Professional Personal Stylist

published Dec 14, 2017
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

Laurel Kinney more than helps people look their best; she helps them look more like themselves! As a professional personal stylist, a big part of her job is also helping clients organize and sort their closets. Before, she’s shared the four biggest ways you get in the way of looking your best and questions you should ask yourself now (so your closet doesn’t end up full of clothes you never wear). In this post, just in time to get started off on the right style foot in 2019, Laurel shares how to sort your closet like a stylist!

Editor’s note: This is a greatest hits rerun post…but its advice is evergreen!

Now that you’ve acknowledged the barriers that prevent you from truly discovering your personal style, and you’ve done the work to determine exactly what you want your style to say about you as a person, you can go about the task of sorting where all of this plays out: your closet. If you’ve ever tried to do a major closet cleanse before, you know this exercise can be time-consuming, stressful, and, in the worst cases, fraught with regret. HOWEVER, by using the information you’ve collected about yourself and your style as a guide, plus a few sure-fire stylist-approved methods, the process of ridding your closet of what no longer represents you can be more of a joyous release than a terrifying marathon of second-guesses.

First, it’s important to understand how our closets can prevent us from really expressing our style. If you have way too many clothes shoved in there at once, it’s impossible to see all of your possibilities and you may end up only wearing what’s easy to reach (and then you wonder why you’re bored with your wardrobe). You may have multiple sizes in there which can set you up to feel bad about yourself first thing in the morning when you have to face those jeans that no longer fit. Or perhaps you just have the tendency to collect and collect without any strategy for culling it back. Having tons of clothes you think you should wear (but don’t) makes it difficult to see where the actual gaps are, so when you shop you just end up buying the same things you already have. If any of this sounds familiar, read on…

When we clear out the clothing that doesn’t fit, doesn’t serve us, or isn’t truly reflective of our personal style TODAY, we create a space filled with more possibility, creativity, and freedom. When you don’t second guess everything you put on, you can start your day more efficiently and with a little extra confidence, and who doesn’t need that? So let’s sort our closets mindfully, using these four steps as a guide:

Make 5 Piles

There are two strategies you can use to start making these piles. One approach is to block off an afternoon or a whole day and just plow through your entire wardrobe all at once. If time is less abundant for you, you can just use this approach to tackle one section of your closet at once, like your jeans pile or your sweater collection, and tackle one section a day until you’re fully sorted.

Whether you’re embarking on a full sort, or just trying to cull back your sock collection, create 5 piles as you consider each piece:

Love: These items work for you, fit you, and are aligned with your style

Love, But: These pieces seem like something you love, but there’s something a little off about them. Maybe there’s a fit issue or you just don’t have anything that goes with it.

Meh: You wear these pieces, but without much passion. These are things like your basics that you only own in order to make the rest of your outfits work.

Donate: These are pieces you need to ditch. They are either old, worn, fit weird, or stained.

Sell: These are nicer, less worn items, but just aren’t for you anymore. You can sell these online or locally at a consignment shop.

Take a Closer Look

Ask yourself the following about the piles you just made:

LOVE PILE: Is each piece versatile? Is it trendy or classic? Current/modern? What kind of quality is it? If you lost it, would you replace it exactly or would you find an updated version?

LOVE, BUT: what could be fixed about this piece to make it more wearable? Is it simply missing a realistic way to wear it?

MEH: can you live without this item? Can it be worn differently to bump it up to a love item? Does it exist as a supporting piece, and if so, is it really doing the job?

Bag It Immediately

Bag up your donate/sell items. If you’re worried you’ll have second thoughts, just put them in the garage or something, or in your car to bring to the donation spot. It’s such a great feeling to have freedom from what you don’t need anymore, getting the stuff out of there will really help the process feel complete.

Be ruthless

If it looks tattered or old—goodbye. If you haven’t worn it in a year or more (unless it’s a costume) toss it. You can put your costumes somewhere else. If it doesn’t fit correctly and you don’t feel committed enough to have it altered, get it out of there. If you’re not sure if it fits or not, or think it might be dated/somehow “off” and you can’t quite tell, send a photo of it to a trusted friend for a second opinion. You can also put things in a purgatory pile if you’re not sure. Leave the pile alone for a week and see how you feel after you’ve had a chance to live without it.


Do you see more room for creative options in there? Any gaps? Can you beautify your closet now that it’s only filled with things you love? How does it feel to enter your closet and know that the only clothes in there are ones that you want to wear? Your style should be something you get excited to express each day, and a cluttered closet can stifle this process. There’s a great freedom in ridding yourself of what no longer serves you, and if this process can help you get clear on what works for you now and what pieces you might add to successfully align your style, you are on your way to having your most stylish year yet.

→ You can read more about Laurel’s personal styling business on her website.

Or follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

And see Laurel’s house tour from 2013.